Robin Millar MP quits government role over Northern Ireland sex education changes

Robin Millar MP official House of Commons portrait
Robin Millar was amongst 20 Conservative MPs who voted against the measures in the Commons on Wednesday night. Credit: UK Parliament

A Welsh MP has quit his role in the UK Government in order to vote against updates to sex education in Northern Ireland.Robin Millar said he “could not in good conscience” vote to introduce the changes in Northern Ireland at the same time as helping parents with concerns about similar issues in Wales.The MP for Aberconwy has been serving as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Welsh Secretary, David TC Davies.He was amongst 20 Conservative MPs who voted against the measures in the Commons on Wednesday night.

237 Conservative MPs, including the Prime Minister and the Welsh Secretary, voted for them and, as a PPS, Mr Millar would have been obliged to do the same.However he argued that it was an issue of conscience for him so stepped down from his post in order to join the other rebels.Explaining his decision, Mr Millar told me that "Parents across the UK are becoming more concerned about the RSE their children are being taught in schools.“I share those concerns - I have also been contacted by parents in Aberconwy worried by what is happening in Wales.“I am pleased the UK government responded quickly with a review of RSE in England and I would urge the government in Cardiff to do the same and listen to what parents in Wales are saying.“But I could not in good conscience represent parents and at the same time ignore the conclusion of the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee that more time was needed to consult with parents in NI before enacting this Statutory Instrument."The changes in relationship and sexuality education (RSE) are aimed at ensuring pupils in Northern Ireland receive “age-appropriate” information about access to contraception and abortion services.They were being debated by the House of Commons because Northern Ireland’s devolved institutions remain suspended.Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which had criticised the proposals, forced a vote in the House of Commons but MPs approved the change in regulations by 373 to 28, a majority of 345.

Here in Wales, a group of campaigners against the Welsh Government’s new RSE teaching guidance lost their bid to appeal against a High Court judgment.The guidance includes the mandatory teaching of relationships and sexuality education to children from the age of seven which the Welsh Government says is "intended to keep children safe and to promote healthy, respectful relationships."However the campaigners said they have "moral and physical objections" about the teaching which they claimed ignore traditional views of family life.Welsh Conservatives said the "concerns of Welsh parents" should not be "delegitimised."